FORMER Labour MP Margaret Moran has been given a two-year supervision and treatment order for fiddling expenses to receive more than £53,000 from the taxpayer.
Moran, 57, who represented Luton South for 13 years, claimed nearly her entire annual allowance in one bogus expense entry and forged invoices for more than £20,000 for non-existent goods and services.
The disgraced former MP’s claims were the largest amount uncovered in the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal, but she does not receive a criminal conviction after a judge ruled she was unfit to stand trial for mental health reasons.
She was sentenced today at Southwark Crown Court to a two year supervision and treatment order, to be supervised by Southampton City Council.
Mrs Moran was not present at Southwark to hear Mr Justice Saunders make the ruling.
He said: “There will inevitably be feelings among some that Mrs Moran has ‘got away with it’.
“What the court has done and has to do is to act in accordance with the law of the land and on the basis of the evidence that it hears.”
The judge said two distinguished psychiatrists instructed by the defence had concluded she was unfit to plead, and a psychiatrist instructed by the prosecution broadly agreed.
“All the evidence in the case was that she was unfit to plead. If I had reached any other conclusion my decision would have been perverse and would inevitably have been successfully appealed.”
A jury decided that she did the acts alleged against her, and the defence played little if any part in the hearing.
“The findings of the court were not convictions. Those findings enable me to make orders requiring her to undergo treatment for her mental health.”
Dr Simon Kelly, from the Priory Hospital in Southampton, said that he last saw Moran on Tuesday.
“She remains very distressed, very agitated, she is severely ill.
“She is unable really to process information that is presented to her.
“What she seeks today is to recover from her illness and continue to engage in treatment.
“She’s living a restricted lifestyle, she’s not answered the telephone at home for approximately three years, she goes out very occasionally, to a local supermarket for 30 minutes.
“She recently acquired a terrier cross dog, two years ago, and tends to walk him as well.”
She said a newspaper article on November 25 was “deeply distressing to her”.
It was reported then that she had been spotted at a pub.
Asked how it had affected her illness, Dr Kelly said: “She experienced panic attacks, nightmares and believes that she is going to be doorstepped at any point.”
Asked how she would have reacted if she had to come to court, he said: “She is so sensitised to publicity, this would have been the most difficult place for her to come. I wonder physically whether it would be possible to get her here.
“I don’t know whether it would be physically possible to remove her from her home without restraining her.”
Jim Sturman, representing Mrs Moran, said: “The more vengeful press, who hound her at her front door, seem to think that the only way someone can be demonstrably mentally ill is if they are in a straitjacket in a padded cell.
“The reports back in April all agree that she suffers from this mental illness.
“Hounding a mentally ill woman is a dangerous and vile thing to do, at any time, particularly post the Leveson conclusions.
“It could have led to an increased risk of suicide.
“There will always be sections of the media who believe it’s a huge con. But they’ve not read all the evidence.”
Mr Sturman said he was making these observations on behalf of Mrs Moran’s husband.
The judge said the order would be under the supervision of a mental health social worker employed by Southampton City Council, and Mrs Moran would be treated by Dr Kelly, with a view to the improvement of her medical condition.
The judge also said that his rulings were limited to criminal proceedings.
“They do not affect any steps that may be taken through the civil courts to recover any money that Mrs Moran has received to which she was not entitled.”
Louis Mably, representing the Crown, said the matter was under consideration.